The investigation of the intergenerational transfer of family violence has been largely limited to studies conducted in the United States, and has been plagued with methodological shortcomings. This study provides data on disciplinary practices and the intergenerational transfer of approaches to conflict from a non-western culture, the Zapotec of Oaxaca, Mexico. It deals with methodological concerns such as definitional ambiguities, inaccuracy of informant recall, and over-reliance on attitudinal and self-report measures. Furthermore, it discusses the relevance of the findings for reducing aggressive behavior within families and society. Three methods are employed to gather data relevant to the intergenerational transmission hypothesis: structured interviews, ethnographic observations and ethological observations. A comparison of two neighboring Zapotec communities shows one to be markedly more aggressive than the other in terms of fighting, wife beatings, assaults, and homicides. The levels of aggression in these communities overall are found to correspond with differing patterns of parent-child interaction. Parents in the relatively peaceful community advocate positive verbal strategies for disciplining and controlling their children significantly more often than do parents in the more aggressive village. Children in the relatively peaceful community are also less aggressive and more obedient than their counterparts in the other location. On the other hand, parents in the more aggressive community advocate and employ significantly more corporal punishment than do parents in the peaceful village. Children from the more aggressive village are often disobedient and are significantly more likely to fight with one another. The findings are discussed as supporting the intergenerational transmission hypothesis, focused at the level of the community. The widespread acceptance of corporal punishment in the United States is considered vis-à-vis the alternative verbal approaches to child training, control, and discipline-e.g., explaining, teaching, discussing-favored by some Zapotec parents, approaches that seem to contribute to low levels of aggression in the next generation.

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